Have you ever had any burning questions about sustainability? Well Isaias' job, aka Queer Brown Vegan, helps answer those questions through informative infographics, visuals, blog posts, and videos.
Welcome to our “Sustainability Spotlight” series: We’ll be using this space to feature some absolutely amazing people in the environmental sphere. Watch this space and be on the lookout for more interviews and guest posts with eco influencers!
This time, we’re featuring Isaias Hernandez, a environmental educator who loves (un/re)learning and the founder of Queer Brown Vegan. He brings attention to topics pertaining to environmental justice, veganism, & zero-waste. Here’s his story.
1. How did you get into sustainability?
For me, it started off at a young age having a passion for environmentalism and experiencing environmental racism, growing up in Los Angeles. I lived in section 8, affordable housing, off of food stamps, and also living in freeway intersections and noise pollution. And so, for me, sustainability in academic settings was presented as a way to sustain natural resources, to protect natural resources. It often disregarded the people and living beings that have been a part of sustainability practices. So I would say that I got into more sustainability work post-graduate when I created Queer Brown Vegan to really reclaim the work of how I saw sustainability. To me, sustainability is the creation of a circular lifestyle that does not have a negative impact on natural eco systems, humans and animals, while also rooting us back to indigenous wisdom and cultural based experiences alongside lived experiences.
2. How did you start your website/blog/podcast/etc.?
I don’t have a podcast but I do have a website and blog. I started my website about 2 years ago to provide more educational background behind my Instagram education posts. I sought to really engage readers that want to learn in-depth about environmentalism, especially environmental justice, and environmental racism...So, it started about 2 years ago in 2019.
3. Which topic of sustainability do you cover/care about most (ex: zero waste, veganism, renewables)?
I would say that I cover so many wide varieties of environmental education. My primary focus is rooted in environmental justice to get people to make the connection between veganism, environmental justice, and zero waste. So I would say that that has been a really unique ride for me to talk about, but I cover a lot of topics from like video games, fashion, policy, energy, etc. I believe that environmental education is a human right so I should be covering all these topics holistically.
4. What’s one ecofriendly thing you do on the daily?
I would say I’m very good at taking public transportation. I grew up taking the metro in Los Angeles, but now that I live in New Jersey, I take a lot of public transportation since I don’t have a car. I don’t know how to drive, and so [public transportation has] really allowed me to venture out into the city and go...meet my friends. So I’m really proud that I’m still choosing to opt into public transportation.
5. What eco products are you loving right now?
That’s a really good question. I’d love to say I love using Blendily Zero Waste Skincare. They provide a lot of products that are made from wood and their jars are made from glass so they’re easily recyclable. I’m really loving what they’re doing.
6. If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
I believe I would change the idea of how we view accountability. I believe that accountability is rooted in justice oriented solutions, so it really takes forms of anti-capitalist, imperialist, colonial values. I think accountability is not the same as cancel culture. So it's super important that when we talk about accountability, it’s super focused on community collectivized vulnerability not individual victimizing.
7. What have been some of your biggest challenges (in terms of sustainable living)?
In terms of sustainable living, I think it’s the idea you can’t really live fully plastic free as a lifestyle. I don’t obviously aim for perfection, I use plastic every day, but I think my kitchen area produces the most plastic and this is because I have to opt into buying vegetables and fruits that are affordable and wrapped in plastic. And so I don’t really have the option to say no. And also the amount of food waste that is generated is a huge issue, so I would say that was one of the [biggest] challenges.
8. In your own words, how can we make sustainability more accessible?
I think it’s the idea to allow POC, more specifically low-income Black/Brown and Indigenous [communities]...to allow them to reconnect to their culture based experiences and their lived experiences. And to highlight the idea that they were always sustainable, because I often think it's often viewed as a "poor thing" these practices - but now they’re being re-popularized and repackaged in different ways. So I would say that to make it more accessible is to give power to community.
9. One piece of advice for someone wanting to make a change in their lifestyle?
Start out with your lived experiences. More often than not, it costs zero dollars to ask your parents, or family, how they grew up living sustainably. [Or] write down things that really made you sustainable, whether it was taking the bus growing up..., saving plastic bags or reusing zip lock bags. There are a lot of things we don’t need to invest in, that we can just really relive our own experiences that we grew up as.
Do you have any questions for Isaias? Leave them in the comments!